Trader Ranow Mirzoeva has seen ups and downs in her business over the years. She used to import goods from Uzbekistan into Tajikistan, selling it to retailers and making up to USD 1000 a week. During these years of plenty she learned to drive, becoming one of the first female drivers in her district. She noticed the timesaving benefits of going to and from Uzbekistan with her own truck. However, her livelihood was put at risk when the Tajik-Uzbek border was closed in 2010. Unfavourable relations between the two countries made a huge dent in her income. Life at home isn't easy either. Ranow claims to stay with her husband only for the sake of their children. She says, "He's not successful and has a hard character." Her husband, traditionally the breadwinner in Tajik society, sat at home and didn't provide for his family. This was what motivated her to do something.
Hafiza lives in Kanibadam, Tajikistan with her husband and four children. In what was still Soviet times, she graduated from secondary school and after she was married, went to work on a collective cotton farm with her husband. As her family was growing quickly the support from Soviet Russia was suddenly swept away with the collapse of the USSR. A few years later, things had degenerated to the point where Hafiza and her husband were compensated in apricots, the primary fruit of the region. They were forced to work for a product for which there was no ready market. Those were hard times, as she had many small children to feed in a tiny house. Describing their situation Hafiza says, "It was like slave labour, we had to work hard but weren't getting paid in useable tender."
A woman contracting in the glass bangles sector in Pakistan reports that previously her husband did not want her to even look out the window. After participating in MEDA's Pathways and Pursestrings project, Reshma's success has changed her husband's attitude. Now that he sees the benefit of her work, he is comfortable with her attending the monthly group meetings. Reshma, the glass bangles contractor, observes, "Almost everyone here is of the opinion that women should be locked up at home like show pieces. But one needs to overcome that to move forward. I have left that behind without fear."
Saleem Bukari is a social entrepreneur. But this wasn't always the case. She lives in an isolated and conservative village in Pakistan with her husband and five daughters. For years she made a small income embroidering fabric that her husband sold in the local market. In 2004 Saleem joined a MEDA training course, called Behind the Veil, to become a sales agent. She began bringing the embroidery of her neighbours to the market, which required her to leave her home and travel to Karachi, the nearest large city market where higher value was placed on these products.
The Pathways and Pursestrings project focused on increasing the income women earn from the work they were already doing within their homes. The project was based on the premise that with greater economic resources, women would gain more value within the family and community, improving their status and expanding their control over the income they earned and increasing their participation in family decisions. These results have been achieved. The project's independent evaluation team concluded, "The assumption that improved economic well-being leads to relatively stronger social and even political capital (defined as the power to influence decisions) seems to hold true on this project." Critical to pushing beyond the initial gains experienced by these women will be their ability to build on these successes. Money in their hands provides women the opportunity to take additional steps in creating the social, legal, and cultural changes they want to see.
Marcia is a long-time client of MiCrédito, a local microfinance institution, in the rural area of Teustepe. Marcia has been running a pulperia (small store) based in her home for over 30 years.
Marcia is currently using MiCrédito's debit card and savings account product, offered in partnership with BAC, one of the largest regional banks in Central America. This initiative is part of MEDA's TechnoLinks project which aims to use technology to increase access to financial services for MiCrédito clients in Nicaragua. Marcia has never had a debit card before, so it has taken time for her to become comfortable using the product: "At the beginning I didn't like the card. I liked having money in cash, but now I am used to the card and will go and take out money when I need to buy things."
Johnny is a father of four and the owner of a photography business in Managua, Nicaragua. A client of local microfinance institution MiCrédito for two years, he recently received his Banco de America Central (BAC) debit card.
As part of MEDA's Techno-Links project, MiCredito offers members faster loan approval times, savings accounts and more efficient disbursement of electronic loans. These benefits are especially valuable in areas where basic financial services and bank branches can't be easily accessed.
Pablo Arlejo Arquil Lopez has been a loyal MiCrédito client for the last three years, running a store in the rural community of San Jeronimo in Teustepe, Nicaragua. Pablo sells rice, beans, flour, and more recently, solar panels.
Pablo is just one of MiCrédito's partner distributors in Teustepe. Rather than providing solar panels directly to clients, MiCrédito is offering its clients the opportunity to expand their businesses and make a positive impact on their communities by becoming local providers of solar products.
Through support from USAID, MEDA is establishing a Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) development program in Libya. Women face numerous obstacles in the business sector, from accessing credit and markets, to cultural restrictions and a lack of business expertise or encouragement for innovation. The SME program offers training in capacity building, coaching and mentoring for women entrepreneurs to better equip them in growing their own businesses.
Baala Ajara has many titles. She is a mother, a wife, a seamstress, a farmer, and a businesswoman. Recently she added best soybean farmer in the Lambussie/Karni district to the list.
Based on the criteria of record keeping, acreage cultivated, and farmer adoption and contribution towards agricultural extension, Ajara was nominated by MoFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture) as the 2013 Best District Soybean Farmer on the 29th Farmers Day Celebration. She received a bicycle, two machetes, a pair of Wellington boots, a bar of key soap, a certificate, and two sacks in prizes.
Henock Menza used to work in the District Office of Chencha, Ethiopia as a community officer. He has a six month-old child and his wife also works as a public employee in the area. Henock is 32 years old and had previously worked as an intermediary in his spare time to support his family. Henock was paid 1044 birr per month ($54 USD) in the public sector before he responded to a vacancy posted by Paradise Fashion in Chencha, a high-end weaving market player, to become an Ethiopian Airlines order intermediary. After getting the job, he now receives 1600 birr per month ($83 USD), motivating him to work hard and to follow up with weavers to ensure the delivery of timely and high quality airline orders.
Shumet Anteneh is a 45 year-old farmer living in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, in a village called Keiro Mender. He is married with 7 children. The family has 2 ha of land where Shumet previously cultivated rough pea, onion, fenugreek, lentils and finger millet. He added rice cultivation in 2005. At that time, production was good, though he was facing problems with birds and other animals attacking his rice field. This problem became severe as no other rice fields were in close proximity to share the damage. He decided to stop producing rice until other farmers around him could also plant it and share the risk of bird attacks. In 2008, Shumet restarted producing rice together with other surrounding farmers.
Zewditu Tona and her husband Bafa Enaro are farmers living in Sodo Zuria, Ethiopia. Zewditu's father-in-law owns the land and helps out with the children while she and her husband farm. Zewditu cultivates potato, banana, cabbage and tomato, and uses organic compost to help fertilize the crops. They have 4 children ages 13, 10, 7, and 3; the three oldest attend school. Zewditu and her husband previously had trouble paying for their children's school uniforms and putting food on the table, but now they are able to plan for the future.
Similar to other parts of the Amhara region in Ethiopia, farmers in Libo Kemkem district struggle to make ends meet partly due to a lack of habit around savings. The seasonal nature of income, added to local perceptions of saving money has hindered farmers' economic wellbeing and resistance to economic or agricultural shocks.
42-year old Bilew is a farmer who lives in the Fogera district of Shaga kebele, Ethiopia, in a village called "Guaya-midere". He is married with 4 children and owns 1.5 ha of land which he inherited from his family. He has been cultivating rice since 1999 and in addition to his own land, Bilew sometimes leases 0.25-0.5 ha of land for cultivation of crops like rice, rough pea, sunflower, chick peas, and teff.
Across Ethiopia, the role of head of the house goes to a man that will be responsible for the family's livelihood. Despite this tradition, the Southern Nation Nationalities People's Region, specifically the Gamo Gofa zone, has seen an alarming trend of single-parent households on the rise. Many husbands abandon their families as economic burdens become too much to handle. As a result, the women are forced to support their families without any assistance. This is the story of a woman in a similar position who was able to make a difference through determination and a strong spirit.